Kaaboo Elevating The Festival Experience

You know a festival is a good time when artists ask if they can come back – not to perform but just to enjoy the experience like everyone else.  And not to come back next year, but tomorrow.

– Kaaboo Del Mar

“We want artists to come away from Kaaboo and go ‘Wow,’” said Jason Felts, chief brand and marketing officer for the Kaaboo Del Mar festival and co-founder of Virgin Produced, which powers the event.  “We had three requests, two from headliners, I can’t say which ones, but they wanted passes to come back the day after their sets. Just to hang out. We said absolutely, and set them up with everything.”

The idea behind Kaaboo Del Mar, a three-day festival on the southern California coast just outside San Diego (Sept. 15-17), is simple – do the festival thing but as an “elevated adult experience.” Surfing lessons with an artist is elevated, right?

“Our general admission, the ‘Hang Loose,’ challenges most VIP programs,” Felts said. “The hospitality is elevated to the VIP level of other festivals like a Coachella.”

With various VIP packages, Kaaboo goes all out, from offering golf cart chauffeurs throughout the festival site, celebrity chef-catered food and beverage to, for the most exclusive package, wine tasting and yoga classes with artists.

Now in its third year, Kaaboo was founded by Bryan Gordon, who “set out to shift the festival paradigm and do things differently,” Felts said. “He wanted to take the experience of other festivals that historically consumers, as they got older, got disgruntled with. There’s no dust, no dirt, no port-a-potties, no fried cheese sticks. We’re definitely reshaping how festivals are done.”

Kaaboo’s marketing materials get to the point quickly, stating right on its website that it represents “The People Against Dirty.” 

Kaaboo Del Mar
Courtesy Kaaboo Del Mar
– Kaaboo Del Mar
Flo Rida performs at the Kaaboo Del Mar festival near San Diego, Calif.

“Invariably, everyone ends up covered in dust or mud or something else that you don’t even want to identify. Kaaboo is the anti-dirt event,” the website proclaims.  

F&B is elevated as well.

“Our culinary program, which is called Palette, every single drop of food and beverage that is inside of Kaaboo is curated, and is done properly,” Felts said.

Kaaboo produces the festival in-house, with a team of 100 staff including veteran talent buyer Roger LeBlanc, who is a multiple Pollstar Award nominee and winner.

Add in Virgin Produced, which “acts like the Intel chip inside the Kaaboo computer” overseeing artist and customer relations, and “artists know we are going to treat them right,” Felts said. “Agencies known that we care about their artists.

Musical artists on the bill this year include Pink, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Muse as headliners, with plenty of other major acts such as Weezer, Jason Derulo, Jackson Browne, Ice Cube, and Michael McDonald.

There’s also an A-list comedy lineup including Sebastian Maniscalco, David Spade, and Norm Macdonald

“Adult” doesn’t mean you have to have an AARP card, either.

“First of all, we’re a festival for adults, but an adult is anywhere from 20 to 80 years old. And so while higher-end, it’s approachable and not alienating anybody,” Felts said.

“We do have stuff for the younger demographic, but we’re doing it differently,” Felts said, “Instead of dirt and tents above it and teepees and camping, we have a ‘Bask’ pool club – a Vegas-style pool club in front of one of stages – and an after-hours nightclub, called Club Elevate. So there are things for the younger demographic but done in a high-end, nicer way.” 

Jason Felts
– Jason Felts
Kaaboo Del Mar / Virgin Produced

Maybe “luxury” is a dirty word in recent days, with the high-profile but disastrous Fyre Festival island getaway falling apart before even getting off the ground. But other than high-end intentions, there is little in common.

“I think the writing was on the wall for Fyre Festival,” Felts said. “It was poorly organized, with no infrastructure in place, no technical background, no experienced talent buyers.

“You’re a product of your credibility in this business. We have a first-class team that has been doing it for a long time. We approach it a little bit differently.

“It was unfortunate. When a festival fails, it’s not good for the industry as a whole. We root for them to do well because that means the industry is thriving. We root for everybody’s success.”

Success seems likely for Kaaboo, which at press time had already sold out many of its packages.

“We’re in year three, but sales have been insane, to be really honest with you,” Felts said. “We’ve had an overwhelming response to the lineup, this year in particular. People got out faster and bought tickets. And it’s going to sell out faster.”

The three-day general admission package starts at $299. Tickets can be purchased here